In his book Newton on the Christian Life: To Live is Christ, Tony Reinke shows us Newton’s growth chart of the Christian life in chapter 7 (the title of this post is actually the title of the chapter).
- Working on the seasons of planted corn, Newton says the Christian life starts off like a blade of corn. We are like children who know nothing except that we have been saved by the death of Christ. New life has begun, but “as spiritual infants we all do foolish things.”
- Next blade grows into an ear of corn. The child becomes a teen. The teen grows in math, and he or she will need it. They will learn to die to themselves rather than following their every emotion, especially when they don’t feel God’s presence. They become aware of their weaknesses, and thus are loving, kind, and tender toward others.
- Finally, the teen becomes an adult. The budding ear becomes a full corncob. “The spiritual man, the father, always lives in ‘absolute dependence’ on God. His ever-present mindfulness of his weakness is his strength.” New tons says, “In a sense he is much stronger, because he has a more feeling and constant sense of his own weakness.” He is quick to turn to Jesus in every need, and Jesus is his every want and desire.
When we put together Newton’s stages of maturity (which are expanded in the book), “they form a robust picture of Christian growth.” Reinke gives the reader some order to these stages and allows us to review the categories individually.
- away from a self-centered life
- and toward a gospel-simple, God-centered orientation aimed at God’s glory.
- away from a circumstantially centered roller coaster of emotions
- and toward a disciplined life rooted in daily spiritual habits.
- away from a legalistic, works-oriented relationship with God
- and toward a stable, gospel-centered security in Christ.
- away from a self-centered evaluation of the assurance of salvation
- and toward a firm confidence in Christ as the ground of assurance.
- away from exalted thoughts of self
- and toward lower and more humbled opinions of self and greater awareness of the remaining sin within.
- away from the impulse to correct others in harsh arrogance
- and toward a humbled and loving correction of others motivated by a deep sense of the worth of souls.
- away from a fearful apprehension about life’s circumstances
- and toward a confidence in God’s sovereign orchestration over every detail in life.
- away from worldly securities
- and toward an increasing willingness to leave this world in the Lord’s timing.
Faithful pastor, don’t fuss over the imperceptible growth in your flock. Let God’s timing recalibrate your expectations for what maturity will look like in them. Although the progress is often unseen, and your pastoral labors never end, the Spirit-born fruit is growing. Celebrate even the smallest evidences of maturity you see. Christian, don’t fuss over your current mood as a gauge of your spiritual health, but keep two eyes focused daily on the Christ who hung on a tree.
For All Christians
Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom, but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed but surely. Many suns, showers, and frosts, pass upon it before it comes to perfection; and in winter, when it seems dead, it is gathering strength at the root. Be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means, and endeavor to look through all, and fix your eye upon Jesus, and all shall be well. Follow this Christ-centered plan and you will mature into a broad-spreading, deeply rooted tree, established for ages, flourishing forever.